I hope you've enjoyed reading the "How to change your life" series as much as I've enjoyed writing it. If you can think of anyone that might benefit from it, use the ShareThis widget at the bottom of each post. If we can touch one person, or help them through a tough spot, it'll be amazing.
Birthdays are something nearly everyone celebrates. Sure, another year of life is important. As cool as it is though, I think we should be celebrating another year of learning, experience, and understanding of how the world works.
If our guardians succeeded across those many birthdays, we have a pretty good idea of how things work, how to manage money, and how to get along with others. We should have a good base of nutritional knowledge, and a fantastic understanding of right from wrong.
This is where todays discussion begins. We all know what needs to be done (budgeting, health and nutrition, etc.), and of course we know right from wrong. So why do many choose for one reason or another to set these things aside? Maybe it's philosophical, maybe it's money, heck it could be anything. But is the excuse good enough?
Navigating life is complicated at times, but it's important that we make decisions that promote a lifestyle of integrity, health, and prosperity. Think about it. Every decision you make affects your life either directly today, or will affect it in the future.
An example might be that your go-to meal at the burger joint is a double cheeseburger with fries and a coke. The better decision, and the one we all know is the better one at a burger joint, is to make it a single with a side salad and a non-soda drink. Why don't more people do that?
Another example is that you're sitting down to find something to watch. You stroll through Netflix and Hulu, but come up "empty." So instead of hopping on Bittorrent to grab a copy of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, why not pick a movie from the DVD case? Or hop on over to Amazon, VUDU, or iTunes to rent one? There's even Red Box. That's the right decision, but why don't people do it?
I believe that a high quality life is built on a foundation of good decisions, integrity, and leadership. From now on, make every decision as if your life depends on it. Because in the long run, its quality does.
If you found value here, please share it with others. Together we can make a difference. :)
This is a great question sent from a friend on Facebook. I thought it was important enough to share here.
"I am curious as to how you think a community can be encouraged to live frugally without forfeiting a sense of grace and abundance. Your thoughts are appreciated."
The answer is a matter of perspective, in my opinion. The law of attraction and the abundance theory are really beliefs. Attraction is to bring the things you want into your life by providing them persistent, positive focus ("Think and Grow Rich," "The Secret," etc.). Abundance, at its core is simply the opposite of scarcity, both of which are perceptions.
Look at it this way: everyone should want to "attract" a strong sense of calm and abundance with your finances. Budgeting and frugality are not contradictory with that desire. Instead of approaching them from the perspective of scarcity, approach them from the perspective of abundance.
Don't focus on squeezing every penny out of the "little money" you have. Instead, focus on telling the wealth you're building specifically where you want it to go. The problem with most people's finances is that they have no idea how or where their money is being spent. Be a good shepherd.
Other people's perceptions of our actions cause us to do, or not do silly things in life. We buy new cars because it makes us look wealthy. We buy new houses with payments far beyond reasonable so we look wealthy and affluent. I'm here to tell you that your perception of your actions is what matters most. Grace is in your heart. If you know deep within that you're doing the right thing for you (and your family) then that will become apparent to those around you.
I hope that helps. :)
If you found value here, please share it with others. Together we can make a difference.
In How to change your life: Your friends and How to change your life: Back to the basics we looked at tailoring your social circle and pruning your lifestyle to acheive a minimum base. In this post we'll look at the correlation between your perspective of, and the reality of your life.
We've all heard these sayings before: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." "Life is what you make of it." "If you want to be 'rich,' do what rich people do."
These sayings are really simple reminders that we're in total control of our lives. Sure there are external influences, but ultimately we wake up every day and we choose to do what ever it is we do. We choose the work we do, when to go to bed, and when and what to eat. But most importantly, we choose our perspective on life.
Have you ever encountered someone that has an unrealisticlly postive view of everything? They see good in tragedy, and in being cut off in traffic: "Hey, he's probably having a bad day. At least he didn't hit me!" Likewise, there are people that will always find something to complain about, or some injustice lobbed in their diretion. The world isn't fair to these people - they have to fight for everything, and nobody enjoys being around them.
We all have a default lens through which we view life. It's the gut reaction we have when we face a challenge, obstacle, or even meet someone new. What's your default?
Pay attention to your lens today. Do you complain about things, if even to yourself? Your meal, your office mate, your yard, your computer? If so, you should really determine how useful that perspective is to you. Does it provide value in some way to those listening? Do your words and actions make you somone that others are drawn to and want to be around?
It takes work, but after making the switch to a positive perspective on life, you'll be amazed at how much better everything is. Choose not to dwell on negatives and things over which you have no control. Remove the words "worry," "jealous," "hate," and similar from your vocabulary. They're all negatives.
The takeaway: your perspective on life will guide you directly to more of that perspective. Be positive, encouraging, and focus your heart and soul on being an amazing human being. The rest will follow, I gurantee it.
If you liked this or found a modicum of value in it, please share it with your friends. Thanks! :)
In How to change your life: Your friends we learned that picking the right people for your inner-circle is incredibly important. They provide the foundation for who you are, and what you'll become. The next step to changing your life is to determine how you'll let strangers, things, and beliefs direct you.
Let's talk about beliefs first. I met with a person today that laid out an elaborate tree of excuses as to why they couldn't pare down their lifestyle and live on less (lots less!). I couldn't help but think about how they believe that these "things" are required in their life. They've become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and there was no flexibility.
Tip: when you're in a tough spot and/or need to make major changes in your life, you need to think unlike you ever have before. No, it's not comfortable. No, it's not easy. But thinking like you always have brought right here.
Back to beliefs - how many of these things do you believe? You'll always have a car payment. You'll always have a mortgage, or pay rent. Credit cards are great for the miles and they help build credit. A good credit score is really really important. Financing "stuff" makes it more affordable (cars, TVs, etc.). Financing *anything* is a good idea. There are certain things and hobbies you just can't do without because it's "who you are."
If you've read me before, I hope you know where I stand on all of these items. They're all beliefs though, ingrained into our brains from childhood by often well-meaning people. Coincidentally, they're all beliefs that are holding you back - back from being able to breathe, from being able to achieve your dream of a better, easier life.
Here's the reality of the matter, and I hope you'll internalize this as deeply as possible. What we need and what we want are two completely different things. Here are the basic "things" you need: food, water, electricity, shelter from the elements, basic transportation, and work. Everything else is a want/luxury and serves to increases your "quality of life."
In order to make real changes, start with the basics and re-evaluate literally everything you believe about "you." Your home, the city you live in, the work you do, the stuff you own, and most importantly where you're headed. I can tell you with certainty that if you're willing to blow it up and cut back to the bare essentials, you're well on your way to better life.
The problem with most Americans is that they've become complacent and they're unwilling to sacrifice "things" that make them feel good. New cars, a home they can no longer afford, eating out, buying new furniture, etc. These things smothering our ability to flourish.
Are you having a difficult time making ends meet, or you're simply not accomplishing everything you had hoped? It's time to look around at your "stuff" and see what's happened. Here's a place to start: sell your stuff, possibly look at a second job, and pay off your debts. You'll be able to breathe again. Get back to the basics.
If you liked this or found a modicum value in it, please share it with your friends. Thanks! :)
How many times have you heard this? "You are who your friends are." Since you've heard this over and over for years, you've carefully considered it through life. You've chosen a life full of positivity and have hand picked your inner-circle, right?
Go ahead, take a look around - you spend a lot of time with people that set and achieve their goals. Your friends come up with great ideas, and actually go about the business of executing them. They seem to be able to do so much with their time, way more than you perceive you have available. They have healthy financial lives, and don't buy a bunch of crap they can't afford to impress people they don't know. Best of all, their personal relationships are stellar, and they have a truly great marriage and kids.
It's a perfect description of your friends, right? If not, maybe it's time to reconsider a few things. Make a list of the people you consider to be good friends and family - the people you spend most of your time with. For each friend, determine what positive impacts they have on your life, and likewise the negative impacts. Start with your closest friends, then move to casual acquaintances. Be sure to note how much time they spend talking about their lives. Do they complain a lot? Do they talk about other people? Where are they going in life? Are they doing something meaningful to you?
This isn't a hit list of course, it's just a simple way to determine where your influences are. If you're spending time with people that aren't providing positive guidance and personal inspiration, you'll be exactly where you are now (or possibly worse off) in 5 years. Personal growth requires challenge, learning, and positive influences.
It's easy to make changes - just pick people out of your current network that are doing the things you want to do. Seek out those that are successful in the ways you want to be. Make a coffee date. Get to know them. Understand what makes them tick, and do that stuff.
Leaving negative influences behind can be difficult. After all, they're your friends, right? They're your people. The fact of the matter is that who you associate with is way more important than that. Your friends are who you are, and who you're going to be. Make every friend, and influence, count.
If you liked this or found a modicum value in it, please share it with your friends. Thanks! :)
Today's Plan A is: a spiraling national debt, armed forces that power the planet's peace, a political system built on maintaining the status quo, and an increasingly polarized populace - unwilling to entertain opposing ideas. We've arrived here, not by strategic planning or by any long term direction, but by default.
We live in the greatest country in the world, second to none, with no second choice near. But our collective global blindness is frightening. We were once the inspiration the world needed, a shining democracy, and the world's destination for creativity, innovation, and education.
Every single one of us, no matter our political affiliation, is responsible for Plan A. No matter your religious beliefs, skin color, sex, or education level, you've played a part in our arrival at this precise point in time. It's never too late to fix it, but it'll require one heck of a change in our entire societal fabric.
The problem starts with the career politicians that drive the "democratic" process. They're mostly former attorneys with deep insight into how the "System" works. The've spent decades building the process, whether in school, or in practice. And most of all, these people know how to stay in office once elected. They've built their careers, sometimes from humble beginnings, and have along the way lost touch with not only themselves, but those that brought them to power.
Any system that encourages camaraderie with power is predisposed to corruption and subsequent failure. Weak personal constitutions, a lack of integrity, and the proliferation of American excess within our "leadership" have led us here. It's said that money and power amplify your inner being - politicians are no different.
It'll be an incredibly long road, but if we're to fix the broken machine (the corruption, lobbying, foreign policy, our national debt, etc.) it has to start at home, with our children. It starts by teaching our children a modern set of core values - from truth and reason, to financial responsibility, to understanding that all things are possible with curiosity, and an education. Work and play with your kids - encourage them to dream and create. Encourage them to try. Let them fail, even if the result is blood.
We must lead by example, as parents, friends, and citizens. Live every day with integrity, kindness, passion, and financial precision. Live a healthy life, free of gluttony, debt, credit, leases, and the excess that was "The American Dream" - as for most, its quest has been anything but.
Reach within, and bring forward the absolute best in your life, and be believe enough in yourself to leave the rest behind. You can only influence the future - embrace that fact, and stop building your future on the past.
Associate only with people that provide a positive influence, and provide guidance to those in need. Sometimes it's a conversation, though likely it's by example.
If you take nothing else from this post, just remember this: you have the power to change everything in your lives, every minute, of every day, and that my friends is truly "The American Dream." Plan B is you.
Inspired by We've Only Got America A, by Thomas L. Friedman, of the New York Times.
Within the last few years, a major shift has occurred in the world of building and managing tech startups. We've become ok with, and shall I say even embrace two previously tabu ideas: 1) failure, 2) business model pivots.
First, failure is OK, and is actually encouraged as long as you do it early (fail fast), or really, really learn from it. Dissect the event and learn from it, you'll be better prepared for new challenges.
Second, we're encouraged to "pivot," or change direction if that direction is more inline with what we feel is right for the company. A famous example here is that Caterina Fake's Flickr started as a gaming website, and made a pivot to social photo sharing early on.
These two thought processes are also the meat of happiness in your personal lives.
As you live your lives, you'll have successes and failures - as long as you're trying, it's inevitable. You've been taught only to embrace the success and view the rest as, well, failure - and failure in the bad way.
I encourage you to see the positives and negatives in every situation. So what if you didn't do as well on the test, or so what if you missed the bus. So what if you've been laid off, maybe you should stop "looking for a job" and go make one!
If that frightens you, keep in mind that every single one of us is ultimately self employed. Our job, no matter the official description, is to do the task we have before us as well was we can, with the tools available. If your "boss" or customers aren't happy with the product, what happens?
Many people are doing things outside of their chosen degree. Maybe you have a masters in theology, but opening a flower shop is more interesting? There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Do you have a degree in something with no great financial opportunities ahead? Here's an idea: pivot. The most important thing you can do with your time is to keep the psychological peace at home. The definition of peace "at home" means different things to different people, though one thing is common and always near the top of the list: being able to pay your bills.
So, go get a job at Target. Or maybe a local coffee shop. Put yourself outside of your routine - it's almost guaranteed to present amazing opportunities, doing things you never would have imagined.
You have the power to change everything about yourself - every second of every day. Embrace it.
One of the easiest ways to foster personal accountability is to make others aware of your intentions. Tell a group of cyclist peers that you're going on a two hour ride today, and I'll bet you do it. You may even invite a few just to make sure it happens. If you're a developer, and you've told the client they'll have "feature X" today, you'd better make it happen.
It seems we all have huge and ever growing to-do lists. We add things left and right, from paying the mortgage to picking up pickles at the grocery store. We get bogged down in the minutiae, often missing the most important thing on the list because something else always takes precedence. Sound familiar?
For many, getting started is the most challenging aspect. Check email, do the Facebook and Twitter. Check out Google Reader (yeah, maybe that last one is just me). But then it comes time for work. You know, work, the things that provide the income necessary to keep doing whatever it is we do. They're all to-dos, yes, but something will always be the most important.
The same holds true for our personal lives. If you exercise, then making sure you get the right amount of time in for the day may be the most important thing you're going to do.
The most important thing is going to vary widely per person, and per day, but the gist is there. There are always important things that we really need to do. It's that one, single most important thing - be it work or play - that when checked provides a sense of accomplishment.
Imagine if, of all of the things you'll do today, you always did the single most important thing on the list. Maybe a challenge - a public challenge would make it more fun. One really important thing per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It doesn't sound like much, but it could add up!
Here's the proposal. At the beginning of every day (yes, seven days a week) we tweet the single most important to-do on the list for the day. A meeting, an action item, a ride, picking your child up from school, whatever - just tweet it. Add the hash tag #1onmylist - which of course means "number one on my list." Then, once completed, follow up with a tweet that simply says "Got #1done!"
For example: " I'll get billing done today. It's way over due. #1onmylist "
Then follow up with " Got #1done! Billing sent. "
I encourage you to abstract the details: "Have to get the proposal for Whole Foods done by 3PM" becomes "Have to get a proposal done by 3PM." Likewise, "Manipedi with David and Brad at TechStars" might just be "Manipedi." :)
What do you think? Want to see where it goes? What's number one on your list today? Tweet it!
It's become apparent to me that our culture is headed in a very disturbing direction. It's commonplace to blame everything negative in one's life on someone or something else. If I'm overweight it's fast food's fault. If I'm in debt, it has to be predatory lending practices and/or the credit card industry. If I'm caught speeding by a cop hidden behind a bush, it's entrapment. If work stinks, it's because they just don't get it.
If we continue to blame others for our situation, how will we ever achieve what most people truly desire? How can we possibly be happy if someone else has control? The truth is, you have the power to change it all. You have the power to make your life everything you could ever imagine.
The first step? Accept responsibility. Once you accept responsibility for everything in your life, the good and the bad, you'll be able to easily identify areas to target. There is no magic pill unfortunately - making changes takes a little discipline and lots of work. The good news? Change doesn't have to come all at once.
Change is about learning new behaviors. Each person learns at a different pace though, so just pick a place to start, and do your best. Eventually you'll get the hang of it, and even embrace it. Once you succeed in making one change, the others will be easier.
You have the power to change your life in amazing and unexpected ways, but you must first accept responsibility for the "you" you've become. You must first accept that you are where you are because of decisions you've made in the past and that decisions you make from this day forward can and will significantly impact the "you" of the future.
How can I help with the changes you need to make?
I believe there is a direct correlation between success at home and our success as a country. If Americans are successful as both individuals and a families, and are left to focus on our personal growth, financial success, and a rewarding future, then the citizens of America can once again provide inspiration to their peers, and to people across the globe.
As America's financial condition deteriorates, our fellow citizens continue to look to others for answers. They've looked to the heads of the the failed companies to place blame - and to the leadership in our government for help - when in fact many should look no further than their mirror. While the failed companies aren't innocent, it is the people of this country that have driven it to the brink.
It is normal in the American culture to want things we cannot afford, and buy them anyway. It is the task of creatives everywhere to ensure we're bombarded with messages telling us how cool we would be if we'd drive their $40,000 car, or how sexy we can be, if only we'd buy their products. It is also normal in this country to fail financially because we lack the ability to believe in one simple, two letter word. "No."
As a society we simply cannot say "No." No to the "90 days same as cash." No to the "No interest until 2011!" No to the new cars - any new car. No to the oversized home. No to the sub-prime mortgages that allow us to buy the dream home - whose mortgages will eventually adjust, forcing foreclosure - wrecking dreams and putting an unfair burden on the family. No to 500 calorie, $5 dessert drinks.
If only you'd said that one simple word. "No."
There are a few that understand the power of the word "no." It is these people, the weird ones, the ones that drive the neighborhood beater, the ones that buy below their means... it is these people that are my inspiration. It is these people that understand that happiness has nothing to do with how many zeros are in your bank account, or how big your house and TV are. It is these people that understand what success is, and how it relates to overall happiness.
To me, success is being able to wake up, morning after morning, knowing that your family has the means necessary to live a safe and comfortable life. Success is knowing that my son will never want for anything, and will know how to handle himself financially once he leaves the house. Success is seeing smiling faces, everywhere. Success is not worrying about money, or the economy, or making your payments. It doesn't take money to be successful, it just takes desire and discipline.
I believe that the our most precious resource is within. I believe that in the best way to positively affect your neighbor, to help your neighbor, is to set an example. Set an example so easy to follow that your neighbors will in turn pass it on. Live a simple, honest life. Fill it with people that bring you inspiration, and fill it with only the things you need. Over time, they can become nicer things, but for now simplify.
Imagine what we'd be capable of as a country if we'd stop the incessant berating of each other's beliefs (religious, political, and sexual). Imagine if we'd just turn off traditional media and agree to focus on our own lives for a change. Focus on the things closest to us, the things that need our attention - to change the things we can.
Think about what you can do as an individual to make your life better. Make your life the life of dreams, and that will improve your outlook, relationships, and family. And your neighbors', and theirs. Then one day, we might just come together as a country. A unified country filled with inspiration, creativity, and a true desire to make the world a better place.
Be weird. Say "No!" today. Sell your car. Pay off your debts. Eat responsibly. But most of all, inspire someone. Inspire yourself, and fix your mess.
Because our President, no matter who it is, cannot fix your mess. Only you can fix your mess.